What can Newcastle do? No, honestly. What can the Magpies do to fix this mess? There are injuries, there is a clear bunch of tired legs, there are financial fair play constrains, there is an unexpected gambling-related suspension, and then there is a heavily criticized manager that might have his days in the city and at the helm of the club numbered.
After toying with relegation a bit over 24 months ago, Newcastle was reborn from their own ashes while led by Eddie Howe and in just a short season and a half the Magpies were entering the group stage of the UEFA Champions League last September boasting immaculate vibes. How times changed then, and how times are changing yet again—only, sadly, for the bad once more and as it was the case for the greater part of the last decade.
Back in January 2022, a few months after the PIF takeover at the end of the 2021 calendar year, all Newcastle needed was to sign a few stout players to strengthen a core that would allow them to stay alive and in the Premier League for years to come. So did they.
A year ago, the approach to the January transfer window was quite different, with the team already in a strong position and making a splash transfer by acquiring an unnecessary player then but quite intriguing for the future in Everton’s wunderkind Anthony Gordon.
Now, with the winter transfer now a few days old in the year 2024 of our lord, I don’t think anybody—from inside and outside of the club—knows what’s the best approach for Newcastle to follow in the next few days and weeks leading up to the window’s closure on Feb. 1.
For one, the FFP constrains are always going to be there, and the Magpies board has ponied up a monster £400 million in transfers, per The Athletic latest estimations. It’s not that they will have tons and tons of cash to keep strengthening the squad and adding players without caring about what they are doing with their finances and proverbial coffer health.
Then, there is the disastrous on-field product. Yes, the injuries have come non-stop and in bunches impacting all lines and players, but to lose seven of the last eight games is just unacceptable, let alone having already waved goodbye to all European competitions (Newcastle couldn’t even finish third in the UCL’s group stage) and the Carabao Cup (after they made the final last year).
Next in line: a potential home-sender in the FA Cup, against fierce rivals Sunderland of all clubs across the nation. No need to mention, of course, that Newcastle will have to face Man City and Aston Villa next in the EPL while sitting 11 points behind Arsenal in fourth place. Sheesh...
Don’t rule out watching Eddie Howe getting fired Sunday, Morning tops, if he cannot right his wrongs and see his team go out of another—the last in play for them—cup on Saturday.
Don’t rule out, either, the possibility of sporting director Dan Ashworth bolting for Man Utd as the Red Devils have tried to lure him into the Evil Empire following the acquisition of the club by Sir Jim Ratcliffe
Will Howe’s transfer preferences be heard by Ashworth knowing the manager might have a short time left at the helm? Will Ashworth even care improving the team in any way, with any seriousness to it, knowing that he might be off to Manchester next summer? Will PIF invest at all now, instead of just waiting for next season to start anew with a set of fresh faces at different roles?
Judging by the latest reports leaking information out there, it looks like Newcastle will prioritize loan deals this month even if those come with potential obligations to buy whoever they land now next July.
Newcastle’s targets for the January window reportedly include a forward, a midfielder, and possibly a goalkeeper with Nick Pope most probably out for the remainder of the season.
Two prominent names have emerged in Manchester City’s Kalvin Phillips and Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher, although both seem more like a dream than realistic possibilities because of the money it’d take to get them—both on wages and fee paid to their current clubs.
Athletic Bilbao’s Nico Williams, Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe, and RB Leipzig’s Benjamin Sesko have been mentioned as long-term options to bolster the forward line, but again, those feel more like summer splashes than winter patches.
It’s also been reported that Newcastle would prefer not to sell any player through January, if possible, given the current injury situation. Any departures, particularly of first-team regulars, are unlikely during this window. Will they happen next July and August? Probably. Will they serve any meaningful purpose, considering Newcastle already sold their best pre-takeover asset in Allan Saint-Maximin? Not really.
Overall, the month of January—notice how I didn’t just wrote the January transfer window— is a critical period for Newcastle United.
The club is playing for advancing in the only cup left for them to win, or at least make a serious, deep run up to the new standards of the organization.
It’s also going to be hard to finish inside the top four in the Premier League, but there is still a lot of time left to make up ground and the team already did it last season, not to mention the multiple players they’ll slowly-but-surely be getting back as they come back from their injuries. That, of course, means that the games against Man City and Aston Villa are crucial as those are a couple of the most-difficult matches in Newcastle’s schedule so getting any point from them would be vital to bridge some of the lost distance with the top of the table.
It’s not even a week into the new year, but things cannot really look more challenging for the club and all men and women involved in the daily affairs of NUFC. We’ll see how it all ends and where things stand by month’s end.
For now, it’s time to focus on the FA Cup matchup against Sunderland on Saturday. Get a dub and keep building. Step by step, Newcastle will eventually get there.